The popularity of Japanese brands of motorcycles is overwhelming globally. Brands like Honda and Yamaha dominate the world motorcycle market, and it looks like it will stay that way for long.
An observer might ask, why are Japanese motorcycles so dominant and popular? Consumer Reports looked into the issue in 2015, comparing Japanese motorcycle brands and others, and its findings were quite interesting.
Before we see how Japanese motorcycle brands perform against their counterparts, here are the best 4 you can choose from.
4 Best Japanese Brands of Motorcycles Reviewed
Here are the best Japanese brands of motorcycles (ranked from most reliable to the least reliable according to Consumer Reports).
|Yamaha Official Website|
Based on the Consumer Reports study, Yamaha motorcycles have an 11% failure rate, making them the most reliable motorcycles around the globe.
Interestingly, Yamaha caters to all kinds of motorcycle riders at different budgets. Globally, it’s the second-largest motorcycle brand (after Honda) by revenue generation.
Essentially, that’s because of its rich history, having branched off from being a piano manufacturer in 1953.
Yamaha was associated with the legendary Italian MotoGP Kingpin Valentino Rossi for many years. Subsequently, Yamaha is always on the top of the map regarding the speediest motorcycles.
Overall, Yamaha has come a long way. Its first bike, the Yamaha YA-1 (popularly known as Red Dragonfly), kick-started its classic reign in 1955.
1959 saw Yamaha come up with the Yamaha YDS sportbike line that sold over 3,000 units. The company ventured into the enduro market in 1968, unveiling the Yamaha DT-1 Enduro, which was the globe’s first-ever dual sport motorbike.
Today, its bestsellers include:
- Yamaha YZF-R1 (Yamaha’s best sportbike)
- Yamaha XSR700 (Yamaha’s best retro style street bike)
- Yamaha MT-09 (Yamaha’s most famous naked street motorcycle)
- Tenere 700 (Yamaha’s most popular adventure bike)
|Honda Official Website|
Imagine fitting a generator engine to a regular bicycle? That’s how Japanese Inventor Soichiro Honda invented the first Honda motorcycle.
Working at his father’s bike shop, Soichiro decided to fit an old generator motor to one of the bikes, and to his surprise, it worked.
He then collaborated with Takeo Fujisawa, and the two co-founded Honda Motor company in 1949. The company made its first-ever motorcycle, the Dream D-Type, in 1949, and in the 50s, Honda was the most popular and largest motorcycle brand in Japan.
Other classics include the 1969 Honda CB750 (the world’s first superbike) and the 1992 Honda CBR900RR Fireblade (the world’s most lightweight superbike).
|Suzuki Motorcycles Official Website|
Suzuki maintains the same reliability as Honda, but it’s not as big. Unlike most motorcycle brands, Suzuki didn’t begin as a motorcycle brand.
It was established as a sewing machine manufacturing company in 1909 to cater to the increasing demand for sewing machines in Japan following the rapid growth of the Japanese cotton industry.
After World War 2, the company decided to make its first-ever motorcycle in 1952. They even participated in the 1962 and 1963 world championships and won the 50cc category.
1963 also saw the company open its first factory in the US. In 1970, Joel Robert led Suzuki to a victory in the world motocross championship class 250cc and won it three times consecutively.
Today, Suzuki is known for Suzuki Hayabusa, an upgrade of the 1999 Suzuki Busa. Suzuki Hayabusa is among the fastest motorcycles globally, hitting a top speed of 248mph. Only the Kawasaki Ninja H2R and MTT-420 RR are faster.
Other popular Suzuki models include Suzuki Katana, GSA-R125, and Suzuki SV650.
|Kawasaki Official Website|
Kawasaki is the oldest Japanese brand on the list, with a rich history dating back to 1878. The company did not start as a motorcycle brand, but as a manufacturer of planes and boats.
Kawasaki built the first Japanese submarine in 1906 and its first-ever airplane in 1922.
The company turned its attention to motorcycles in 1962, unveiling the Kawasaki B8, a simple 125cc motorbike with a 62mph top speed.
Then followed several two-stroke 50cc-250cc engines, but the biggest seller in the 60s was the Samurai 250cc, which wowed the US market.
The benchmark for the Kawasaki large displacement motorcycle was the 1966 Kawasaki 650WJ. 2004 saw the company unveil the Kawasaki ZX10R, arguably Kawasaki’s most powerful motorbike to date.
However, the most popular model is the Kawasaki Ninja 650, known for its insane fast speed and aesthetics. The Japanese sportbike needs no introduction in the sport biking world as its top speed is 130.5mph.
That, however, doesn’t level up with Kawasaki Ninja H2R’s top speed of 249mph.
Japanese Brands of Motorcycles vs Others in Terms of Reliability
A motorcycle’s rate of failure defines its reliability. The less it breaks down, the more reliable it is. According to Consumer Reports, Japanese motorcycles have an 11-15% failure rate, making them the most reliable.
Here’s how the four giant Japanese motorcycle brands fare on the reliability scorecard compared to other brands.
|Motorcycle Brand||Failure Rate|
The report shows that Japanese brands have a much lower failure rate and are the most reliable motorcycle brands. The most reliable brand of all is Yamaha.
American brand Harley-Davidson and British Triumph follow a distant second and third while German BMW has an underwhelming failure rate of 40%.
It is the high reliability rate of Japanese motorcycle brands that highly endears them to millions of motorcycle riding enthusiasts.
Why Japanese Brands of Motorcycles Are Popular
We’ve discussed reliability as one of the reasons Japanese motorcycles are popular. Customers want to buy motorcycles that don’t break down easily and are easy to fix when they do, and that often lands them to Japanese brands.
But besides reliability, here are other reasons behind Japanese motorcycle brands’ popularity.
Japanese manufacturers look into fine details, which most manufacturers overlook, to make their bikes quite comfortable.
The bikes come in different heights to consider the rider’s height and the basic ergonomics you expect from your motorbike, thus comfortable.
Japanese brands are available at all price points to cater to all riders. The brands tend to lower their prices and sell their bikes in bulk, which has seen them attract budget buyers across the globe.
It’s rare to walk into a motorcycle shop and fail to locate a Japanese motorcycle brand or its spare parts. The bikes and spare parts are made in bulk and have more distributors than any other, thus always readily available.
Numbers don’t lie, and reports show that Japanese motorcycles are amongst the fastest globally.
Japanese bikes like the Kawasaki Ninja H2R, Kawasaki ZH2 (2020), and Suzuki Hayabusa average a top speed of +200mph.
Where Do Japanese Motorcycles Seem to Fail?
There is no denying that Japanese Motorcycles beat other brands in terms of reliability, comfort, affordability, availability, and speed.
However, that doesn’t mean that they outscore other brands in other areas. Here are areas Japanese motorcycle brands perform underwhelmingly.
Since Japanese manufacturers focus more on reliability, they don’t pack their motorbikes with lots of innovative features. In terms of innovation, European motorcycle brands take the overall crown.
Japanese manufacturers only employ simple technologies to make their bikes better and safer, and again, that boils down to reliability. These bikes are less fancy but more reliable.
Where reliability, availability, and comfort rest, elegance seems a forgotten idea. That’s what happens with Japanese brands (save for a few high-end bikes).
Japanese motorcycles are not as elegant or cool as European or American motorcycles. They often don’t stand out in aesthetics but prove their worth in performance.
Now you know the best Japanese brands of motorcycles and their most popular and top-selling bikes. Given that all these motorbikes’ reliability is unmatched by no other, they are worth getting by any enthusiastic and passionate motorcycle rider.
People Also Ask
Here are a few questions that pop up often about Japanese motorcycle brands.
Which Is the Best Japanese Motorcycle Brand?
According to Consumer Reports, the best Japanese motorcycle brands are Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, and Kawasaki, in the same order. These bike brands have a failure rate of 11-15%, thus the most reliable.
What Is the Most Popular Motorcycle in Japan?
Statista argues that the most sold large-displacement Japanese motorcycle in 2021 is the Kawasaki Z900RS/Cafe, followed by Honda Rebel 1100, and Harley-Davidson Cruiser.
Why Are Japanese Bikes the Best?
Japanese motorbikes are the best because of their reliability. They have a much lower failure rate, less than 15%, thus highly dependable. Furthermore, they are fast, comfortable, safe to ride, and affordable.